If you’ve been keeping your eye on the Ladies Countryside Community Instagram recently, then you would have seen that I spent a brilliant day at The 125th Devon County Show! Yes, you read that right. Days spent admiring top livestock, shopping at irresistible trade stands and filling up on, well… everything edible, are well and truly back!
When I heard that the county show was happening, I will admit, I was hesitant. After the last 18 months, I think it is understandable that many of us will be for some time yet. But heading to the show last weekend was undoubtedly the right decision. It felt so good to be at an event amongst people having fun; indulging myself in a moment of normality. A rural lifestyle can be isolating and lonely at the best of times so these shows are essential for not just business and income, but also the community. Whether you’re a farmer, trade stand, competitor or ticketholder, these shows are an important date on the calendar. Whilst there is an undeniable pressure to make up for lost time, the atmosphere last Saturday was one full of gratitude, energy, relief and joy!
TRENDS AT THE TRADE STANDS
First up on my schedule was an early trip to the trade stands. Even though ticket numbers were controlled this year, I thought it might be wise to beat the rush and get my shopping done first – a decision I will definitely make again in the future! The variety available was impressive, from local artwork to practical jackets for your dog and homemade skincare products; this show had everything! It quickly became apparent, however, that there was a high number of newcomers to the show. It seems many lockdown projects have taken off and it was great to see so many people embracing the journey their passions and hobbies have taken them on. For this reason, there was a notable enthusiasm and appreciation amongst the stallholders creating a fantastic atmosphere. Many seemed surprised by the interest they had received and appeared to be heading home with more excitement for the future than they came with. Doesn’t it just show that having the confidence to put ourselves out there can work wonders!
A theme prominent across many trade stands was a commitment to the environment. Not only were the products on sale creative and unique, but many were sustainable and considerate of their impact. What’s more, many stallholders were eager to engage with customers about this aspect of their brands, offering advice about how we can all alter our habits for the better. Naturally Gorgeous Cosmetics, a brand founded by Leoni Adams, is an affordable skincare brand that is on a mission to encourage more people to start living plastic-free. Her advice for her customers is as follows:
“Do the things you can and that work for you and build on it. It’s overwhelming to try and change all your ways at once so build things in gradually and it has more chance of becoming a sustainable lifestyle change”.
It’s easy to feel distanced from global concerns, especially when you’re distracted enjoying a day out. However, my time at The Devon County Show showed me how much more aware and educated we are becoming, even in our local corners of the countryside. Another forward-thinking business was the Sandy Shores Candle Company. Bernadette’s priority is not just high-quality fragrance (achieved by pouring wax at a specific temperature to allow the scent to spread evenly throughout) but to also minimise the environmental impact of her products. The packaging for these candles is made with recycled materials and cellophane plant extract that is biodegradable. The glass is also re-useable. For me, such features add immense value and I think as consumers it is crucial we are considering such factors and allowing our conscience to inform our purchases. I initially spoke to Bernadette’s daughter who was temporarily manning this stand and it was heart-warming to see how genuinely proud she was of the brand her mum has created. These shows allow us to interact and connect with the people behind the brands; something that is becoming increasingly important to us all. With the number of business cards I picked up in this one morning, gift shopping is looking pretty easy this year! #shopsmall #shoplocal.
A ROUND-UP OF THE HIGHLIGHTS
Writing this article, I could easily just describe every detail of the show because it feels like everything is worth mentioning. The shetland pony racing was, as always, nail-biting and incredibly cute and it was lovely to see the pride of the steam engine teams as people of all ages walked around impressed. My highlight would have to be the brilliant display from The Quack Pack. The sheepdogs demonstrating their talent by rounding up runner ducks had me equally in awe and in stitches. The display was made even funnier by the narration of Meirion and as someone who has only seen a sheepdog in action on the TV, this display was fascinating!
Of course, I couldn’t write an article on a county show without mentioning the food! Fantastic local produce was available in abundance! There were three different stands selling freshly baked brownies selling every flavour under the sun and my biscoff doughnut from The Amazing Brownie Bakers proved them to be worthy winners of the Food and Drink award for a Devon-based exhibitor promoting Devon Produce! There were also local cheese producers, a loose leaf tea brand and a chocolate fountain. The longest queue, however, seemed to be leading to scotch eggs and pasties!
All in all, I had the best day out that I’ve had in a long time. I connected with new people, ate delicious food and was entertained all day before heading home with some wonderful shopping. There were times when I thought people were stood a bit close together, especially when the jump-off got a bit tense! But overall, I felt safe, relaxed and respected. It has given me the confidence to plan more events as we approach freedom day and I can’t wait for the next local show!
Regional Reporter - South West England
A motto I live by is “if it makes your heart happy, follow it and the right doors for you will open”. I grew up on the Somerset Levels and am currently studying my final year of Hospitality Management at the University of Plymouth. After specialising in the Cruise Industry and spending 7 months sailing around the world, I simply confirmed that the British countryside is where my heart lies. Like many, my love of the countryside runs deep. I spend as much of my free time possible riding, sailing, baking or exploring with my dog in tow and I love nothing more than a countryside picnic…except maybe a cosy pub dinner! To me, hospitality is about having something you’re proud of and wanting to share it; a purpose I see mirrored in the objectives of the Ladies Countryside Community and I’m excited to get stuck in! Take a look at my blog @thecountrysidecorner